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Bishop Endgames Star As Kosteniuk Extends Lead
Kosteniuk is sitting in first place with a 6.5/8 score and a 2744 rating performance. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Bishop Endgames Star As Kosteniuk Extends Lead

JackRodgers
| 17 | Chess Event Coverage

A commanding 6.5/8 score has planted GM Alexandra Kosteniuk firmly atop the leaderboard in Munich at the FIDE Women's Grand Prix after she consolidated her 1.5-point lead with a win over Ukrainian GM Anna Muzychuk in round eight.

The "Chess Queen" was joined on Friday by three other winners: GMs Humpy Koneru and Elisabeth Paehtz as well as WGM Zhu Jiner, who each demonstrated clinical endgame techniques to convert their respective games.

Koneru's win was the most important among the chasers in relation to the standings. Her king activity in a same-colored bishop endgame against IM Alina Kashlinskaya cemented her spot in second place and kept her in touch with Kosteniuk with three rounds remaining.

How to watch?
The games of the Munich Women's Grand Prix can be found here. The rounds start each day at 6 a.m. Pacific/15:00 CEST.


The leader's rampant run continued at the lavish Hotel Kempinski Vier Jahreszeiten as she achieved her fifth win of the event after three draws in a row. Twelve moves into the game, her closest rivals would have been disappointed to see that Kosteniuk had already won a pawn cleanly and had begun to liquidate into an opposite-colored bishop endgame. 

With just two results likely, both favoring the former women's world champion, Kosteniuk cashed in on two inaccuracies by her opponent and secured the result, stretching her lead to 1.5. Although her opponent was "always suffering," the game proved to be technically challenging, and the win had to be earned.

Our Game of the Day, annotated by GM Rafael Leitao, demonstrates the importance of spotting early tactical shots and how to augment slight advantages.

With her rating performance now a lofty 2744, Kosteniuk's performance in Munich is reminiscent of her 2766 rating performance 10 years ago at the European Women's Team Championship (her 7.5/8 on board two was easily the highest in the event).

Following her robust performance against Kashlinskaya in round seven, GM Nana Dzagnidze looked poised to challenge the lead in round eight but was brought to a halt by Paehtz. The "Freak Attack" in the Najdorf Sicilian lived up to its name and by move 23, multiple pieces were left en prise in a completely imbalanced middlegame.

Paehtz ponders the best way forward as the position becomes complicated. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Although Dzagnidze drummed up enough play to increase the possibility of a decisive result, the position fell in favor of Paehtz who masterfully used her queen to wear down Black's knight and rook.

An equal bishop endgame was spoiled by a move-36 blunder from Kashlinskaya which the Polish IM owes to her opponent's superior king activity. Despite possessing material equality in a same-colored bishop endgame, Koneru made use of her lone passed pawn and took full advantage of her opponent's doubled f-pawns to storm to victory.

Now that the Indian superstar is in clear second place, eyes turn to her round-10 clash with Kosteniuk that will likely go a long way to determining the winner of the event.

Having experienced a rollercoaster of a tournament thus far, Zhu notched her second win, this time over WGM Dinara Wagner. Showing good preparation in the Nimzo-Indian Defense, the Chinese GM capitalized on a lack of activity in White's camp and broke through with a picturesque knight sacrifice in what was almost certainly the move of the round.

Despite Wagner's speedy play in the opening, the game didn't go her way. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Following the stunning sacrifice, Zhu found all the right moves to convert her two-pawn advantage in yet another bishop endgame.  The 13 "great moves" (judged by Chess.com's Game Review tool) were a testament to the technique on display en route to victory.

The remaining games—GMs Harika Dronavalli vs. Zhansaya Abdumalik and GMs Tan Zhongyi vs. Mariya Muzychuk—were both drawn quickly with four of the tournament's top players unwilling to risk jeopardizing their scores against each other.

Dronavalli's unbeaten run in eight games makes her the most solid player in the tournament so far. Photo: Mark Livshitz/FIDE.

Round nine will undoubtedly provide plenty of excitement as the tournament leader Kosteniuk will be forced to defend against Dzagnidze with Black while Koneru will need to thwart a momentum-driven Paehtz with White in order to close the gap.

Crosstable

All Games - Round 8

The FIDE Women's Grand Prix Second Leg (of four) takes place February 1-14, 2023, in Munich, Germany. The format is a round-robin tournament with 12 players. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, plus a 30-second increment starting on move one. The prize fund is 80,000 euros.


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